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Experimental study on the occurrence and activity of soil nematodes in decomposition of plant material

Experimental study on the occurrence and activity of soil nematodes in decomposition of plant material

Pedobiologia 28(1): 41-57

Changes were anlayzed in a community of soil nematodes in relation to losses of dead organic matter exposed in soil. Also the energy flow through soil nematodes during decomposition processes was estimated, and some groups of bacterial and fungal microflora were observed. Dried postharvesting residues of summer barley with roots were put in metallic litter bags with a mesh size of 5 .times. 5 mm, and exposed in soil of a harvested barley field, where potatoes were grown the following year. Samples of the exposed material were taken every 4 wk over a year to analyze losses of organic matter (by mass), abundance of microflora, and numbers, biomass and faunal composition of nematode communities. These empirical parameters combined with those obtained by other authors were used to estimate the energy flow through nematodes. Nematodes aggregated and reproduced in the exposed organic matter. Dominant nematodes consisted of Panagrolaimus, Rhabdilis s.l., and Aphelenchoides. Nematodes of 2 bacteriophagous genera dominated in different weeks. The dominance of Aphelenchoides increased with decomposition processes. The dynamics of nematodes inhabiting litter bags showed a peculiar course in time. Their numbers increased from the 1st weeks of decomposition until week 24, then they decreased, and increased again at the end of the annual period. Bacteriophagous nematodes were more abundant in the 1st half of decomposition, and mycophagous nematodes in the 2nd half. Two stages were distinguished in the metabolic activity of bacteriophagous nematodes. In the 1st stage the bacterial feeding nematodes caused a decline in bacterial number. In the 2nd stage the activity of these 2 trophic levels went in parallel. The metabolic activity of mycophagous nematodes followed a different pattern. About 50% of the organic matter exposed in the soil was decomposed in 48 wk. Nematodes consumed, via microbial production, from 34-44% of the organic matter decomposed by bacteria and fungi, while the energy dissipated from this system by nematodes accounted for only 0.8-0.9%. Habitat conditions to some extent influenced the activity of nematodes in decomposition processes. Higher soil moisture and fertility enhanced the development of bacteriophagous nematodes.

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